By Thomas M. Disch
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Sleepless inside a broken unit in the annex to Emergency, he stared at the red bulb above the door, trying to think the pain away. It persisted and grew, not only in his shoulder but in his fingers sometimes, or his knees, less a pain than an awareness that pain were possible, a far-off insistent jingling like phone calls traveling up to his head from some incredible lost continent, a South America full of dreadful news. It was the lack of sleep, he decided, since having an explanation helped. Even this wakefulness would have been tolerable if he could have filled his head with something besides his own thoughts—a program, checkers, talk, the job .
It was done as neatly as that. The two people whose curiosity or impatience might still have spoiled the substitution were now clamped to each other like a pair of steel traps, jaw to jaw to jaw to jaw. He hadn't considered the elevator situation. During his own shift there were seldom logjams. When there were, carts routed for the morgue were last in line. At 6:15, when the Schaap was finally signed over to him, every elevator arriving on 18 was full of people who'd ridden to the top in order to get a ride to the bottom.
I'm better now," he said. " The boy climbed back onto the cart, which he'd wheeled himself all this way, and Chapel pushed him around the corner and down the hall to Surgery. Ab had felt it in his arms and his hands, a power of luck, as though when he leaned forward to flip over each card his fingers could read through the plastic to know whether it was, whether it wasn't the diamond he needed to make his flush. It wasn't. It wasn't. It wasn't. As it turned out, he needn't have bothered. Martinez got the pot with a full house.
334 by Thomas M. Disch